In a word: misophonia

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:

MISOPHONIA

When my grandfather, Lucien Lundy Early, took his evening meal, he went into the kitchen and my grandmother closed the kitchen door and served him. When he had eaten, he returned to the living room and the rest of the family could proceed to the kitchen and eat.

This was not some strange patriarchal ritual: The sound of other people chewing made him nervous.

For years, we could not eat or drink anything while watching television in the room with him, until his hearing faded.

It seems possible that he suffered from misophonia (pronounced mis-oh-FOH-nia), which the Collins English Dictionary defines as “a neurological disorder triggered by certain sounds such as chewing or gulping resulting in disgust or anger.” The coinage is from Greek roots meaning “hatred of sound.”

People who suffer from misophonia experience strong, angry reactions to certain trigger sounds, such as people chewing food or slurping soup or beverages. The term, coined in 2001, specifically identifies “aversive response to repetitive and patterned based sounds that may often be quiet, or ‘soft.’ ”

It is distinct from the reaction to sounds that people generally find unpleasant, such as the crying of infants. 

Example: Joyce Cohen, “When a Chomp or a Slurp Is a Trigger for Outrage” in The New York Times, September 5, 2011: “Many people can be driven to distraction by certain small sounds that do not seem to bother others — gum chewing, footsteps, humming. But sufferers of misophonia, a newly recognized condition that remains little studied and poorly understood, take the problem to a higher level.”

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